fbpx
Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Tucker Carlson Vs. The GOP War Party

Senators are shocked that conservative host doesn't trust their judgment on war. Where have they been for these past 20 years of bad establishment calls?
Tucker Carlson Vs. The GOP War Party

Goodness, GOP senators are mad at Tucker Carlson for his antiwar stance on Ukraine. Excerpt:

Republican senators are unmoved by Tucker Carlson’s relentless warpath against support for Ukraine — even as it widens an existing rift in their party.

A “relentless warpath” against … war. Genius. More:

The Fox News prime time host and others on the far-right have excused and even rationalized Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and downplayed its relevance to U.S. national security. And while GOP senators are shrugging off his name-and-shame campaign, Carlson’s views are permeating the GOP base in a way that could undermine Republicans’ efforts to emphasize cross-party unity as they seek to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“On individuals up here who are decision-makers, I don’t hear any disagreement about the position Russia is in,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a brief interview. “Russia is the aggressor. … Ukraine has every right, as a sovereign nation, to have their borders respected. Russia’s not doing that.”

The disconnect between the GOP foreign policy establishment and the pro-Donald Trump base of the party on the value of intervening in foreign quagmires isn’t new. But the crisis in Ukraine is exposing the widening gulf between the two camps when it comes to committing U.S. resources in support of fledgling democracies under siege by authoritarian regimes.

In recent days, Carlson has attacked Republicans who are pushing for a stronger response to Moscow’s aggression — slamming Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) as “ignorant” and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) as “a moron masquerading as a senator” and “pompous neocon buffoon” simply for advocating long-standing GOP orthodoxy when it comes to Russia.

Carlson has even defended Moscow’s buildup of troops along the border with Ukraine — and President Vladimir Putin’s rationale for it — in a stark departure from the tough-on-Russia posture that has defined the Republican Party since the start of the Cold War. Meanwhile, Ukraine remains under active threat from an invasion that some are warning could be just the first domino to fall in Eastern Europe.

Simply for advocating long-standing GOP orthodoxy when it comes to Russia. Golly. It’s almost like the writer here (for Politico) hasn’t thought about how the past twenty years — including the disastrous war of choice in Iraq launched by George W. Bush, and the botched occupation of Afghanistan — has destroyed the faith of many conservatives in GOP orthodoxies, or competence.

In his Fourth of July address in 2003, following the US victory over Iraqi forces, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, one of the Republicans quoted in the Politico piece griping about Tucker Carlson’s big mouth, said:

What the evildoers will never understand is that America cannot be destroyed by weapons, armies, or terrorist attacks. No matter how many weapons they try to make, no matter what secret schemes they concoct, no matter what buildings they attempt to destroy, as long as the dream of freedom lives on within our hearts, America endures as a beacon of light shining for the entire world to see.

Sen. Cornyn supported the Iraq War, as did I, and as did most conservatives (except for the founders of The American Conservative, denounced by Bush White House speech writer as “unpatriotic conservatives”). Back in 2003, I would have swooned over that rhetoric, which was even more purified in President Bush’s second inaugural address, including these lines:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

It has been a long, steep learning curve since then for we on the Right, regarding the judgment of our leaders on matters of war and peace. Ron Paul was widely seen on the Right as a nut for his antiwar views when he was running for president. The first major presidential candidate to openly criticize the Iraq War was Donald Trump, at the 2016 GOP primary debate in South Carolina. The crowd booed him. But he was right — and a year later, he was president.

In 2019, the Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, secret Pentagon documents revealing that the military brass knew for a long time that the Afghanistan war was unwinnable, yet kept pushing for more money and troops from Congress. Here is a link to the reports in the Post, which begin like this:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The Post had to file a lawsuit to get access to these documents, which lay bare the corruption, stupidity, and mendacity of American elite leaders, especially in the military. More:

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

More:

The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

All of this was made public in 2019. Have you seen Republican senators (or Democratic senators for that matter) rising up to demand accountability from the Pentagon for the lies the generals told to Congress over the years? I have not. Yet these same Republican senators are scandalized when a conservative TV host showers contempt on their leadership over Russia and Ukraine, whose dispute threatens to draw American troops into conflict.

My view is that Ukraine should stay out of NATO, and Russia should stay out of Ukraine. How about we don’t go involve ourselves in another foreign war we don’t understand, at least not until we hold our generals and the foreign policy establishment responsible for having royally screwed up on the last ideological adventure they had with the lives of other people? The problem here is not Tucker Carlson. The problem is that GOP foreign policy and national security elites have forfeited their expectation of deference by conservative voters. From the Politico article:

Some GOP senators rolled their eyes when asked about Carlson’s attacks and indicated that the far-right Fox host isn’t impacting their calculus on an emerging legislative path, even as his views are picking up steam among the base.

“I get great intel briefings and we have trusted advisers that provide many points of view. And I would say I’m pretty well educated on this subject,” Ernst, a combat veteran, said when asked about Carlson’s attacks.

How can Sen. Ernst be sure that she is being told the truth by the military and the CIA, given what we now know from the Afghanistan Papers? How can any of them? Until we see proof that the Republicans in the House and Senate care about the disgusting lies told by the generals and others in authority over Afghanistan, I don’t blame anybody for thinking that the judgment of a cable news host is more trustworthy on this potential war than that of elected GOP officials. After twenty years of lies and abuse of American troops and American taxpayers to fund Washington’s foolish wars, their credibility is zero. That doesn’t make Tucker Carlson right on Ukraine and Russia, but it does make him worth listening to more than these senators who deferred for years to the bellicosity of the Washington Blob, against the best interests of their country and their constituents.

I commend to you this sarcastic take from last Friday’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” in which Carlson mocks the war crowd among our political class and media elites. You might hate Tucker Carlson for whatever reason, but you should ask yourself why it is that it falls to a conservative cable host to lead the antiwar opposition here. Where are the liberals? Is the only thing they’ve learned from the past two decades of US warmaking that wars are only bad if they are launched by Republican presidents? It is quite curious that a liberal DC publication like Politico is carrying water for war-friendly Republican senators, against a mouthy conservative cable host who has the audacity to cast doubt on the judgment of the Washington Establishment. Watch this, and join me in thinking that Carlson’s contemptuous tone is exactly what the Blob deserves:

 

UPDATE: Sen. Josh Hawley has called on the Biden administration to drop its insistence that Ukraine’s possibility of joining NATO must remain alive. It comes in the form of a letter the GOP senator sent to Secretary of State Blinken. Here’s the letter (sorry about the formatting issues):

What a sensible letter. More, please. And if you don’t like Hawley, well, read Douthat’s latest tweet. He’s right as right can be:

Advertisement

Comments

Become a Member today for a growing stake in the conservative movement.
Join here!
Join here